Thursday 21st July
Today we head from Swakopmund into the southern Namib desert to overnight on a farm which is around 20km from the town of Solitaire.
Leaving Swakopmund after another leisurely breakfast at Deutsches Haus hotel, a hot shower and bags packed we reloaded ourselves back into the blue elephant after a 2 day break and made our way out of town and onto the main coast road headed towards Walvis Bay.
Walvis Bay is a port town on the coast of Namibia with around a population of 100,000 and is the countries only natural port sheltered by the Pelican Point sand spit, a tidal lagoon home to abundant birdlife including flamingos which was the reason we hijacked our guide to make a stop so we could get up close and personal with said flamingo’s.
Having found a spot to park overlooking the spit whilst we were not able to get up close or personal we did view literally hundred of flamingos wading out on the spit. During this time we also got to observe a pod of Dolphins making their way up the channel breaching the surface and likely chasing fish.
Back on the truck we threaded our way back through the town and turned onto C14 the road to take us into the Namib-Nakuluft National Park and Desert. It was goodbye asphalt and hello again to well formed dirt roads. Our route took us inland and down with a total distance traveling that day of around 220km. After being so close to the coast the past 2 days we were now back into the dry arid landscapes we had been accustomed to earlier in the trip with the sand dunes giving way to hills that looked not too dissimilar to traveling through parts of New Zealand (Danseys Pass). The road was undulating as we made our way through the at times narrow Gaub pass but always dusty with the occasional sighting of animals in the distance.
Prior to arriving at our destination we crossed over the Tropic Of Capricorn which runs through Namibia from this point. It is the southernmost latitude where the Sun can be directly overhead. Its northern equivalent is the Tropic of Cancer.
Essentially you have a large sign in the middle of nowhere on a long flat stretch of desert road. So as you do we stopped and took the obligatory photos and sweltered in the heat but with the knowledge we were not far from our destination.
The Namib Desert stretches down the coast and between 40-160km inland for about 2000km from Southern Angola to the Olifants River in South Africa buffered by the South Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Great Western Escarpment on the other. The desert geology consists of sand seas near the coast, while plains and scattered mountains occur further inland. The sand dunes, some of which are 300 m high and over 10 km long are some of the largest in the world. Temperatures along the coast are consistent and can range between 9–20 °C while temperatures further inland can exceed 45 °C whilst nights can be freezing.
The escarpment rises to around 2000m in places and is the product of the planet being shaped by major geological forces over millions of years. The Namib Desert has some stunning animal and plant life that exist due to the fog that rolls in from the Atlantic in the mornings. There is no water around here except bores which are drilled down many meters to gain access to salty tasting aquifers. The land is unproductive for farming with many people who established farms just walking off and leaving them as it was uneconomic to persist trying to make them arable. The fog provides just enough moisture for these plants and animals to survive with them adapting their genetic makeup to do so. Today is a lesson in history, geology and geography all rolled into one but so much easier to understand when you have the visuals to accompany.
Bosemans Farm – our overnight spot…..we arrived around midday and after a short drive off the main road ,down another sandy road and past some more Zebras we came to a few scattered buildings overlooking a plateau and mountains in the distance (the escarpment). The buildings it turns our were a couple of amenity blocks and the farmhouse. Our host for the rest of the day was the owner….Boseman (bushman) a 50 ish born and raised white Namibian, who was taught the ways of living in the desert through his father and father before him. He is a wealth of information on the land, animals, people, and history of the desert. He doesn’t wear shoes and his wife is from Japan (who he met when she was backpacking in Namibia – they have 2 young children).
He and his family live on the income from the camp and his tours but it seems they only deal with a select few when it comes to overland groups (another overland group arrived later that day). The farm was purchased for next to nothing as the previous owners had walked off. He told us he once spent 10 days walking in the desert to Swakopmund taking only some food, water and shelter (in barefeet)
After 2 days of luxury (sleeping in beds and not having to set up camp) it was quickly back into the routine of the kitchen out and up to prepare lunch then tents pitched. We were advised by Boseman that it was safe to sleep under the stars despite our Cook Charles’s misgivings of scorpions, snakes and leopards being around.
After another awesome lunch We jumped onto the back of Boseman’s landcrusier (with kids sitting on the front bullbars , adults and kids standing on the back (with an esky for the sunset) and headed out with him taking us for a tour around his huge desert property. The property is around 13,000 un-fenced acres of rolling dunes, mountains, and flat sand (the C14 road cuts through it) that is home to many animals like mountain Zebras, Gemsbok and Leopard’s who roam freely.
Our first stop along the bumpy track was not because a child fell off the bullbars ( no 20 page risk management plan here readers) but so he could show us a recent kill of a Zebra by a Leopard.
He explained that after the Leopard/s had taken their fill other animals would feed off the carcass and over the period of about 2 years it would be eaten in it’s entirety (bones included – eaten by the Gemsbok to provide calcium for their huge horns). We then parked up on the side of a hill that was apparently a dune that has had vegetation establish itself where he explained to us that rain in the desert was bad for it, too much rain kills the desert, the plants grow and push out the native insects. He showed us a seed that he had and when water was poured onto it it opened into life.
We climbed further up this dune to a plateau where an expansive view over the farm and into the distance was had. There was also a lone tree and we were then given a master lesson in desert survival…..split into small groups of three to maximize food found, expend as little energy as possible, and don’t stand under a lone tree as it is probably riddled with ticks as they will be shade spots for animals, especially the Oryx who if approached too close will seem docile then strike and gore you to death. Lie on the shady side of a dune to cool, how the beetles have ridges on their backs and when it rains they do handstands to run the water straight into their mouths, how you can eat them, lizards and scorpions or ostrich eggs to provide food and water because if we didn’t we will ALL DIE TOGETHER!
If you sit under a lone tree – You will die, if you don’t have small groups you will die………. He also gave us incredible background on the original bushpeople who roamed the desert and how they survived………women and kids were left behind and we got some original insight into how the bush people found their family (and possibly wives)……..footprints…apparently they could differentiate between footprints.
The sun was starting to set so we climbed further up a dune (with the esky) so with beer in hand we watched the sun go down yet again with another spectacular sunset with strong oranges and red hues contrasting with the burnt sands of the landscape. This also made it onto our top 25 sunsets of Namibia list.
Arriving back at camp Charles had dinner ready and once again we ate around a campfire as darkness took hold. After dinner and dishes we then sat there with heads back as we sat and looked up at the huge night sky filled with stars, satellites and the occasional shooting star (we had seen numerous of these each night). Some time later the moon (full) rose over the top of the escarpment but was of a colour that you could almost be forgiven thinking it was the sun. The moon was huge and as it went higher it lightened the night time darkness.
After getting the kids down (BB of course slept outside under the stars but KK wasn’t that keen so slept in the tent) a few of us walked down to Boseman’s house and sat outside on his patio with him discussing life over a few beers. He had a small waterhole next to the patio which he had put up a dim floodlight so animals could be watched as they came in to drink. By the end of the evening it was just Noelle & I watching as a group of mountain Zebra’s tentatively made their way towards the waterhole. It was recently that Leopards had been seen around the house so they were cautious in their approach to the waterhole not only for that reason but that there were two of us also possibly looking threatening.
We made our way back to the campsite where we retired for the night joining BB sleeping outside under the big Namibian sky. Also joining us were our tour guides and a couple of the older boys. (all of us were accounted for the next morning so fears about animal attacks were unfounded it seems)
It was starting to hit home that we only had 2 days to go then our travel in this part of the world would be coming to an end. Tomorrow we were headed further into the Namib desert to Sesreim which was the gateway to the Namibian desert pictures you see in most travel magazine or brochures ( plus we would get to climb the famous Dune 45 )